Imran Khan arrested days after accusing top ISI officer of trying to kill him
Imran Khan arrest: The use of Pakistan Rangers, a paramilitary force led by Pakistan Army officers, to arrest Imran Khan pointed to the military signing off on the action
Pakistan’s former premier Imran Khan was arrested by paramilitary personnel from the Islamabad high court complex on Tuesday, triggering fears of a possible confrontation between his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and the ruling coalition.
Scores of Pakistan Rangers personnel in riot gear swarmed into the court complex in armoured vehicles on Tuesday afternoon, shortly after Khan arrived for a hearing of cases against him. The personnel presented an arrest warrant issued by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the country’s anti-graft watchdog, that named Khan as an accused in a case of corruption.
The paramilitary personnel broke doors, jumped through windows and scuffled with PTI workers to reach Khan. NAB said in a statement that Khan was arrested by its officials and the Rangers were “deployed for the action” on the orders of the interior ministry. The statement also clarified that the Rangers didn’t detain Khan.
Pakistan’s interior minister Rana Sanaullah told a news conference in Islamabad that Khan was arrested by the NAB in connection with what is known as the Al-Qadir Trust case. He said there were dozens of other cases involving alleged corruption in progress against Khan.
Sanaullah said Khan failed to appear in court despite being issued several notices in connection with the case. A statement issued by Islamabad Police said Khan was arrested in connection with the Al-Qadir Trust case, which involves allegations that he and his wife obtained billions of rupees from a real estate firm for “legalising” a laundered amount of ₹50 billion that was identified and returned to Pakistan by the UK during the term of the PTI government.
PTI leaders claimed Khan was roughed up during the arrest, though this could not be independently verified. Islamabad high court chief justice Aamer Farooq took notice of the arrest and sought explanations from the Islamabad police chief, interior secretary and additional attorney general.
The Islamabad Capital Territory Administration issued an order prohibiting large gatherings soon after Khan’s arrest. The Islamabad Police warned that strict action will be taken against anyone violating the order. PTI leaders called on party workers and supporters to take to the streets to protest against Khan’s detention.
Khan, 70, has spearheaded a campaign against the ruling Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) coalition led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif since he was removed in a vote of confidence in parliament in April last year. He has accused the Sharif government of colluding with the US and the Pakistani military to remove him from power.
People familiar with the matter said Khan apparently crossed a red line when he accused Maj Gen Faisal Naseer, director general of counter-intelligence in the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), of trying to kill him twice while addressing a rally in Lahore on Saturday. Though Khan had referred to the same general obliquely in other speeches, he had never named Naseer publicly.
The military hit back against Khan on Monday. In a strongly worded statement, it said the PTI chief levelled “highly irresponsible and baseless allegations” against a serving military officer without any evidence. “This has been a consistent pattern for last one year wherein military and intelligence agencies officials are targeted with insinuations and sensational propaganda for the furtherance of political objectives,” the statement said.
The military asked Khan to “make a recourse to legal avenues and stop making false allegations”. The military also reserved the right to take legal action against “false and malafide statements and propaganda”.
PM Shehbaz Sharif too criticised Khan for “maligning and threatening” the army and ISI. Khan’s “levelling of allegations without any proof against Gen Faisal Naseer and officers of our Intelligence Agency cannot be allowed and will not be tolerated”, Sharif said in a tweet on Monday.
The people cited above said the use of Pakistan Rangers, a paramilitary force led by Pakistan Army officers, to arrest Khan was a significant development that pointed to the military signing off on the action. The PDM government, which has been crippled by a lack of popularity, would not have acted without a go-ahead from the army, the people said.
Khan has also resisted several attempts by police to arrest him in connection with his failure to appear in court to face charges in several cases, and this is believed to have been a key reason behind the decision to deploy the Rangers.
The powerful military, which has ruled Pakistan for half of its history, has grown increasingly wary of Khan’s levelling of allegations against top serving and retired officials as part of his campaign against the PDM government. The people said some within the military perceived Khan’s actions as an attempt to engineer a split within the army, especially in view of the support for the PTI in some quarters.